Goliad man teaches blacksmithing skills (w/video)

Sara  Sneath By Sara Sneath

Dec. 11, 2013 at 6:11 a.m.

Otto Bluntzer shows how a knife's handle is formed using the belt drive he built himself at his workshop in Goliad County.

Otto Bluntzer shows how a knife's handle is formed using the belt drive he built himself at his workshop in Goliad County.   IAN TERRY for The Victoria Advocate

GOLIAD - Thirteen years ago, Otto Bluntzer, 76, harvested a hog on his family's ranch 19 miles north of Goliad. Bluntzer was visiting from Rochester, N.Y., at the time and hadn't skinned a hog in 40 years.

He called his brother, Bernard Bluntzer, to help.

Bernard brought a knife with a funny looking hook on the tip. He buried the knife into the hide of the hog and pulled down.

"He goes 'zip' and opens it wide open. Just one long stroke," Bluntzer said.

On his way back to Rochester, Blunzter decided he wanted a similar knife, but he wasn't going to buy it. He wanted to make it himself.

Bluntzer took an 18-hour continuing education course in New York and later attended a two-week course at the American Bladesmith School in Washington, Ark.

"I've been hammering on iron and steel ever since," Bluntzer said.

He became a member of his local affiliate of Artist Blacksmith's Association of North America in New York.

In 2006, when Bluntzer moved back to Goliad County, he continued with his hobby. What started out as a shed and hunters' lodge now holds a fully equipped blacksmithing workshop, which Bluntzer has been hosting monthly meetings in for more than a year.

"Blacksmithing is a marriage between science and art. For Otto, most teaching opportunities become science lessons," said Ernest Alaniz, 64, of Goliad, who began attending the meetings a couple months ago.

Bluntzer said you don't have to be big and burly, like the blacksmiths you see in the movies, to make metal bend to your will.

"You need to have a desire to learn," Alaniz said.

It's likely that in the middle of a project, you'll have to forge a new tool, Alaniz said.

Bluntzer made three forges, more than 50 sets of tongs and continues to make his own charcoal from mesquite.

About 40 members are in the Goliad Forge, Bluntzer said. He said the group is mostly made up of men of retirement age, but there are a handful of teens and at least one woman who attend the meetings.

Alaniz said he's interested in blacksmithing because it's a chance to make something useful with his hands.

Bluntzer said others come for the artistic side of the skill or for a way to make money on the side. But the collective goal of the group is to carry on the skill of blacksmithing and keep it alive, Bluntzer said.

Blacksmithing is becoming more popular nationally, and there are increasingly more women picking up the trade, said JoAnn Bentley, central office administrator for the Artist Blacksmith's Association of North America.

Bentley said there are more than 4,000 active association members in the U.S.

She said she thinks it's a way for people to get back to the basics.

"If you are a blacksmith, you can make stuff and make stuff work," Bentley said.

Bentley said women may be drawn to the trade for artistic reasons, though she adds that she isn't very artistic.

"It doesn't take any special skill," Bentley said. "You just get the metal hot and hit it hard."



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